Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Friday, June 28. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.
NO DEAL: House and Senate leaders have not reached agreement on a budget bill or a tax reform measure. Gov. Pat McCrory has now signed the continuing resolution giving lawmakers until the end of July to reach an agreement.
NO CALENDAR: Neither the House nor Senate have formal meetings scheduled today. Gov. McCrory is traveling in the Triad and Charlotte.
IN THE SENATE THURSDAY: Senate leaders expressed their frustration with the slow pace of tax and budget negotiations Thursday by pulling all House bills – "anything that begins with an H" – from consideration a sending them to the Clerk's office for consideration at some future time.
"We need to get things moving on tax reform and the budget," said Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, the chamber's Rules Chairman who called for the move. "I wouldn't call it gamesmanship. I would call it incentive."
HOW CLOSE?: House and Senate leaders have been talking for much of this week. Lawmakers and staff in charge of the tax bill have been spotted scurrying from one side of the legislative building to the other. But Apodaca said progress has been slow and uncertain.
"It's kind of difficult to negotiate with three bodies rather than two," he said, implying that input from McCrory's office was less than helpful.
PROGRESS: As Apodaca wrapped up speaking with reporters, Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, the lead negotiator for the House on taxes, walked into the Senate chamber to find Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, a leading Senate tax writer.
Asked about Apodaca's swipe at the governor's office, Lewis said, "I don't see them as a hindrance...We're trying to all stay united and get to the same place."
As for the Senate clearing House bills off the calendar, Lewis was philosophical.
"This is a very old institution," he said. "And there are very old political tricks, and we'll continue to to do all of this stuff long after Sen. Apodaca and I are gone."
Lewis hazarded a guess that Senate bills would be pulled from the House calendar on Thursday, which would have given both side more free time to negotiate.
That House didn't pull Senate bills but did pull some ...
...SHENANIGANS: The House spent Thursday afternoon wrangling over a number of bills in committee and on the floor.
For example, the chamber broke so the House Finance Committee could hear a perennially controversial measure that would force the City of Durham to extend water and sewer lines to a new development. That bill came to the floor and was the subject of much debate.
In fact, debate ran so long that some members missed long-scheduled plans. Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, blew off his own campaign fundraiser to stick around for the afternoon.
JUDGE ME NOT: One of the bills Glazier stuck around to debate would give the governor more latitude to appoint district court judges when vacancies occur. The measure was on nobody's radar Thursday morning and was not included in draft language circulated to members of the House Rules Committee Wednesday evening.
The provision was slipped into the bill at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday and raised the hackles of several lawmakers, even though Rep. Tim Moore, the House Rules chairman, said he knew of no opposition.
"The reason he doesn't know of any controversy is because nobody knew this bill was on the table," said Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake.
As the bill was pilloried on the House floor, Moore withdrew it for "technical" reasons and referred it to the House Judiciary Committee.
But the chambers wasn't done doing legislative back flips.
IT'S A TRAP!: Few lawmakers or observers would normally remark on a bill like SB 103, which extended the authority of some counties to levy special assessments if they have pressing water and sewer problems. In fact, the measure passed with well-over 100 members voting in favor Thursday afternoon.
That wide margin held until someone noticed the bill dealt with a July 1 deadline. House lawmakers are not expected to be in town for full sessions next week. And the bill is a "roll call" bill, meaning it needs to be voted upon on two separate days in each chamber.
House members spent 15 minutes trying to figure out when they might meet – at 12:15 a.m. Friday morning or closer to 9 a.m. – to handle the bill.
Then a flurry of members, apparently worried about everything from the measure breaking their no tax pledge to the influence of "Agenda 21" on the bill, changed their votes to "no" on the bill. That raised the specter of the bill potentially failing its early morning vote.
Rep. John Blust then moved to reconsider the bill – essentially withdrawing and erasing the initial yes vote.
At that point, it looked as if lawmakers moved down the bill for a number of reasons, not the least of which having to do with nobody want to return for a midnight session.
Then Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie, stood up to lecture her fellow lawmakers.
The bill, she said, had been on the calendar earlier in the week, but because of gamesmanship between the House and the Senate, had been shuffled around. Delaying approval of the bill, past the July 1 deadline, would cost local taxpayers money but would be better than canning the bill entirely. She pointed out that the measure originated in the Senate and that the late-week parliamentary back flips came "as we're sitting here trying to negotiate the budget with the Senate, as we sitting here trying to do tax reform with the Senate."
Howard said the bill and the Senate should not be used as "fodder" over legislative arguments.
"If it's more important to you to go home tonight, then we'll just bring it back. I'm going to ask you not to kill it. That's not a cute thing to do, it's not an honorable thing to do," Howard said.
Her please won the day and the measure was sent back to committee where it could be fitted with new effective-date language.
MAYBE THEY DO NEED A VACATION: House Speaker Thom Tillis told his chamber that no formal lawmaking would take place next week, the week of July 4. The downtime might give budget negotiators space to work out budget and tax deals, he said.
Meanwhile, the Senate had planned to return to work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Senators had anticipated taking up a sweeping package of voter ID legislation and election reform proposals. But that was before the House announced it was taking a week off. It's unclear if that will change the Senate's plans.
MORE STORIES: Other stories we were following Thursday included:
YOU CAN'T DRIVE 75: A proposal to raise the state's maximum speed limit to 75 mph has run out of gas. House lawmakers Thursday voted down Senate Bill 709, a measure that would have allowed state transportation officials to raise the top speed limit to 75 mph on highways they deem safe at that speed.
NOT VERY RESTRICTED: On any given day, about 7,000 convicted drunken drivers are on North Carolina roads with a restricted license, meaning they can only drive during certain times of the day and for certain reasons. The WRAL Investigates team found that those restrictions may not be worth the paper they’re written on. Of the 216 suspected violations involving restricted licenses brought before judges in North Carolina last year, 142 – or nearly 66 percent – were dismissed in court, according to the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts.
TESLA: North Carolina auto dealers say they're moving ahead with a bill updating franchise laws without a provision that effectively bans the business model of electric car manufacturer Tesla. But Bob Glaser of the NC Automobile Dealers Association said Thursday that the group hasn't given up on a separate bill targeting the automaker that already passed the Senate last month. The non-controversial provisions of that bill updating franchise dealer laws were tacked to an unrelated bill that passed the House Thursday. The Senate is also expected to approve the new bill without the Tesla provisions.
ABORTION: A bill requiring North Carolina seventh-graders to be taught that abortion is a risk factor for later miscarriages is headed back to the Senate after winning final House approval Thursday. The vote was 69-42.
GULP: A bill banning local governments from limiting the size of soft drinks is likely to win Senate approval next week after passing the Senate Judiciary 1 Committee Thursday morning. House Bill 683, the "Commonsense Consumption Act," is a model bill from ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a free-market pro-business group.